A year into the pandemic, we are no longer just worrying about progress on women's equality coming to a standstill. We're now seeing the possibility of such progress being reversed. The devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on women's livelihoods cannot be overstated. Globally, women tend to work in low-paying jobs and in the informal sector—precarious employment that has been upended by lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions. Adding another layer to this burden, women's unpaid care work is soaring.
The childcare crisis is at a tipping point. Childcare must be addressed within our COVID-19 recovery plans both to advance gender equality and because it makes fiscal sense. In addition to reducing the undue burden of care, affordable and quality childcare frees mothers up to participate in the labour force and creates decent jobs for women in the childcare sector. Fiscal space is shrinking due to COVID-19 but limiting spending on care work would be shortsighted. When more women work, economies grow. Currently, gender gaps in labour force participation in OECD countries cost the economy about 15 percent of GDP.